Animals As Victims Law: Do Harsher Punishments Go Too Far?

A new animals as victims law will increase the level of punishment for animal abusers by affording the same rights and protections to mistreated dogs, cats, horses, etc., as what is given to a human crime victim.

The Oregon Supreme Court reached their decision this week, according to The Dodo. From the report:

The Oregon Supreme Court this month passed a landmark ruling that will change the way animals are treated under the law in the state for the better. The ruling will ensure that any animal can be seen as a legal “victim” in a case, affording animals more basic rights to protect them from abuse.

The ruling was made on the case of a man who was convicted of starving 20 horses and goats on his property. The judge’s decision allotted a separate count of second-degree animal neglect for each animal, noting that each animal was a separate victim on his own.

The distinction might sound obvious — but it wasn’t legally accepted at the time that Arnold Nix, the defendant, was first convicted in 2009. During his case, Nix argued that the law defines animals as the property of their owners, so the word “victim” shouldn’t apply to them. As of this month’s hearing, the word “victim” does apply.

“To acknowledge that animals are victims of crime, that’s really common sense to us,” said Lora Dunn, staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Portland. And the ruling could lead to longer prison sentences for those convicted of animal abuse in the state.

Surprisingly, there were a few comments opposed to the animals as victims law on the Oregonian website, with one commenter, who identified himself as Ziggy Ratfield, stating: “This is Oregon’s idea of a growth industry: a weird coupling of ambulance chasers and generations of people who think animals are something like Winnie-the-Pooh, Marmaduke, Snoopy, Garfield, Bambi, and a lot of other cartoon nonsense.”

Truth Be Told 1 added: “While any decent person would want to see protection of these animals, that is not the issue here. The issue is the political agenda driven criminal prosecution of individuals, rather than just seizing the animals and relocating them so they can be protected.”

Regardless of what you think about this law, I think we can all agree that stricter punishments should be enacted on people like the Craigslist Dog Killer, who bought five dogs from the website, decapitated them and kept their heads in his freezer. Laws like this may make harsher sentencing an option. But what do you think, readers?

Does the animals as victims law go too far in blurring the line between people and pets?

[Image via ShutterStock]